Crockett rode up one morning wanting to know if I’d be interested in doing some exploring, a little surveying in the territory northwest, almost halfway to the Mississippi, and thought I might want to look around there, perhaps laying claim to a homestead for myself. I had been splitting logs close to the boat’s mooring when he rode up behind me. Everyone else was over at the Wilkes place. I was glad it had worked out that way. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 4
We got married on June 30, 1820, on a Friday evening at the Wilkes’ house. The preacher came down from Pitts Burg Landing to perform the ceremony. He was a Baptist, quite young, a red-faced Scotch-Irish fellow, another Wilkes’ relative. Danny was not a religious man, as far as I knew. The subject never came up. I had been baptized at Christ’s Church in Montreal, but had never taken to the church life myself, having found it to be an inconvenience, as had my parents. Mana and her family, on the other hand, were Baptists. Mrs. Wilkes belonged to The Primitive Baptist Church, but Mana must have taken after her father in that respect, for Homer rarely attended services. Mrs. Wilkes spent a lot of time excusing their absences. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 3
On a Texas August day
Back in 1948,
Daddy took me for a ride.
How well I do remember there was no interstate,
Just a dusty county road,
One car wide.
Riding in the front seat,
All the windows down,
I sang along with the radio.
As the wind blew the music and the sweet gum scent around,
Daddy whistled softly,
Sweet and low.
On the banks of Running Creek,
We stopped by the bridge,
Free as the music and the wind.
Bending and swaying, we bowed to the breeze,
And Daddy took me gently
By the hand.
On the banks of Running Creek.
Me and Daddy danced,
In the middle of the dust and heat.
The woods gathered round us, ancient guardian trees,
And rustled with the rhythm
Of our feet.
Through a valley
A creek runs from the spring flooding.
Its water spills over the rocks like flowing glass
That does not shatter,
But splashes and splatters in drops.
Sunlight peers through the branches of a sweet gum tree
Whose limbs once cradled a child.
On the bank,
A wash pot squats over a kindled fire
When clothes need boiling.
A wash woman, she pokes the garments,
Punching them with her stick
Into the cauldron of soapy lye.
The rags bubble clean enough to be scrubbed,
Then rinsed, then stretched over brush to dry.
A wash woman,
Her hands crack, the knuckles knocked raw.
Bleeding from the ridges of the rub board,
They burn from the lye,
And the skin sheds.
Grateful, she’ll grasp with sandpaper claws
The tits of the family cow, and squeeze.
So soft, so warm,
The velvet bag will squirt its milky balm.
In a soothing stream, the gentle cream,
Will ease her feverish palms.
Later, she’ll dream of a sweet gum tree,
Whose branches sway in the breeze,
And she’ll stir in her sleep in the way of a child
Whose cradle is rocked with the leaves.
While poking around old memory chambers,
Revisiting my childhood years,
I was surprised, not by ghosts from the past,
But by locks on so many doors.
Did you ever have a birthday cake?
With candles for making a wish?
Did they all gather ’round with the birthday song,
and watch you open your gifts?
Did someone sing you to sleep at night,
After gently tucking you in?
Can you recall being told you were loved,
Then saying it back to them?
Did the tooth fairy come as you slept?
Did you ever see a clown?
Did you believe in the Easter Bunny,
Or go to the circus in town?
Did your family all laugh together?
Did you sit on your daddy’s lap?
Did your mother read you stories,
Before your afternoon nap?
Oh, you must have had lots of parties.
No telling the times your family ate out!
I’ve just been wondering, for comparison’s sake,
About the kind of childhood you had.
What a narrow window she looked through
during her allotted time for life.
She couldn’t see over the red clay hill
cut deep by rutted tracks.
Years spent in front of that window,
left the imprint of her knees
embedded within the whorls of oak,
a martyr’s testimony.
That window bears the indentions
her gripping fingers made,
pressed into the wooden frame
in anxious expectancy.
She was in a holding pen unaware,
for hers was a common fate.
She knew nothing of optional plans,
or alternate routes of escape.
“He came with her. Mary said it didn’t matter what anybody thought.”
“Mary’s the daughter?”
“No-o-o-o. Mary’s the mother. I can’t remember what the girl’s name is, but she’s the one that lives up north, someplace in New York. Anyway, that’s where she met that nigger man she married.”
“What? Why, I have to watch everything I say to you, Lana!” Continue reading Down Home Sickness
I’m concerned I may be developing Attention Deficit Disorder. Does ADD only afflict children? Some days my inability to remain focused runs me ragged. Before I can accomplish an intended task, often before I even get started, something invariably distracts me, demanding my immediate attention. Today has been one of those days, and it all began with the phone book. Continue reading ADD, Or What?
Just up the road from our driveway, in the yard of the house at the corner, there grows this ancient sycamore tree. I am sure it is ancient—it’s gigantic. Its white and gray mottled bark wraps a trunk as large in diameter as a medium size tabletop. In places, the bark peels and curls away, like dried hide, revealing smooth white skin underneath. And its leaves, resembling great webbed maple leaves often as broad as eight inches, quickly cover the ground when they start to fall—pieces of brown and yellow parchment for a child to rustle around in, or to make pretend dresses from as I recall. Every time I notice that old tree, something similar to melancholy comes over me, and I am reminded of years past, and feel unsettled, sad. Continue reading Sycamore Trees Make Me Lonesome